How to ensure Locum Relief Vets, Nurses & Technicians return Time After Time
You know that sinking feeling. You have an unexpected gap in your shift scheduler, staring back at you, expecting to be magically filled. Or you know deep down that it’s time to ease the workload in your practice and give your permanent team members that well-earned R&R they well-and-truly deserve. You need an experienced, reliable locum relief veterinary professional, one that is worth their weight in gold. But even better – and we are talking platinum grade here – is an experienced, reliable locum relief professional already familiar with your protocols, facilities, team and clientele, who can hit the ground running. And for Locum Relief Vets, Nurses and Technicians, discover how to set the scene for your Locum Relief contracts. Here are six ways to attract the most valuable locum relief talent to your practice and ensure their visit is more than just a one-shift wonder…
Clear working guidelines
Uncertainty is as good as a holiday, said no one ever. If you want to secure quality locums and keep them regularly boomeranging back in the future, you should aim for clear, timely and upfront communication regarding their working conditions.
Before any locum relief stint at your practice, you should get in touch with them promptly and confirm in writing:
- Their dates and hours
- The rate of pay and the protocol for invoicing you
- The nature of the work, e.g. consulting only versus consulting and surgery
- Any special requirements of working at the practice, e.g. after hours or shifts at a branch practice
- Any special needs you may need or they may have, e.g. only routine surgeries
- Any special skills you may need or they may have, e.g. advanced dentistry or ultrasonography
To stand out from the prospective clinic crowd, create a concise and up-to-date “How To” welcome pack for working at your practice that you can email (or provide a hard copy of) to locums before their first shift. This should include details such as:
- Clinic-specific treatment protocols, e.g. vaccination protocols, protocols for prescription renewals and rechecks etc
- The practice policies for referrals, work-in consultations, emergencies, after-hours, and client payment plans
- A timeline of a standard day at your practice (e.g. allocated surgery times, break times)
- Instructions and login details for the computer system
- Billing procedures
- Details on access to S8 drugs
Even the most competent locum will benefit from good support whilst working at your practice. And less uncertainty for your locum means greater certainty and confidence for your support staff and clients, and a high likelihood that they will be happy to keep coming back, time after time.
Lastly, ensure that you always pay locum invoices on time. If they have to chase you for money, you might be (unsuccessfully) chasing them for work in the future!
Exceptional team support
Whilst a good locum will be able to quickly jump in and competently manage a busy caseload, making an effort to offer them the support you would give any other new staff member will help them to feel comfortable and leave the best impression of your practice.
On their first day, you should aim to be present to answer questions, or at least team them up with an experienced and easy-going staff member who will be happy to “chauffeur” them around the clinic a bit. This staff member should be competent at their job and familiar with the expected duties of the locum. They should know where equipment is kept within the clinic, the clinic policies for bookings, referrals, and payment plans, and how to properly bill for procedures.
It is also a good idea to ensure that your entire team is prepped for the arrival of the locum. This is especially important for receptionists and vet nurses/vet techs, who should positively advertise a locum vet’s presence to clients, given that some clients can feel hesitant about trusting an unfamiliar staff member. Informing clients about the new locum at the time of booking (“Would you be happy to see our visiting colleague Dr X? They’re very knowledgeable/gentle/experienced”) prevents awkward situations where a client was expecting to see their regular vet, so is disappointed when the locum enters the room.
Competitive and Timely Payments
With veterinary teams feeling the strain of an increased workload and more demanding clients, there is a plethora of work available for locum relief professionals.
To stand out from the crowd and entice quality locums to your clinic, you should clearly outline the rates on offer in your advertisement. Vaguely mentioning “competitive rates” can mean your job is mentally categorised into the Too Hard basket by prospective candidates or, at worst, interpreted as, “We will try to lowball you!”
As for what you should be offering? Of course, it depends somewhat on the candidates’ technical capabilities – for example, can they handle advanced medical and surgical cases? Do they have any other special skills to offer? Additionally, are you planning to offer other perks in the bargain to sweeten the deal, such as an allowance for accommodation or travel?
If you are unsure of current rates in your area, checking out regional locum relief pay rates offered on VETERINARYlocumotion is a good start. Simply browse or search our Locum Relief Veterinary Professional real-time Availabilities and Rates and you will quickly get a “feel” for the current demand and market prices.
Remember that a locum should be paid an hourly rate at least 25-30% higher than an equivalent permanent employee (to account for having no vacation time or sick leave and having to cover their own CPD/CE costs, license and insurance fees). However, with competent locums currently in high demand, and with rates being constantly being bid up like a Google Ads auction by practices desperate to help their patients and clients, many will charge 40-60% more than an equivalent full-time rate. And if you require last-minute coverage, you may have to offer up to 2x average rates.
Team bonding opportunities
Whilst locum work certainly reduces workplace politics and feelings of professional stagnancy, many locum relief staff miss the feeling of inclusion within a friendly team, especially if they have travelled far from home to work at your clinic.
If you want to earn bonus workplace points, try to include locums in any fun after-hours activities or training sessions scheduled during their stay.
On the locum’s last day, if the vibe feels right, offer them a friendly farewell gesture to thank them for their work. Depending on how long they’ve worked at your clinic, this could be as simple as complimentary snacks and takeaway coffee in the lunch room, an outing to a local eatery or an invitation to your end-of-year celebration.
If your locum feels valued and included, they are more likely to pick repeat work at your clinic in the future over an unfamiliar job, or even if they are busy on your preferred days, they may try to flex to help or refer you to another Locum Relief Veterinarian, Nurse or Technician that they trust.
Some clinics make the mistake of “trying to get their money’s worth” from a locum. Please, do not be THAT clinic! Good relief vets and nurses/vet techs are well worth the additional cost, as they help to keep the clinic running for all your clients and patients whilst protecting your staff’s mental health and longevity.
Schedule your locum relief staff member fairly, particularly in the first few days when they are settling in and will likely need a bit more time to accomplish the same tasks. Try to schedule a few short catch-up blocks in the first couple of days, which will come in handy as the locum searches for equipment, double-checks billing and booking procedures, and acclimatises to your computer system.
Resist the temptation to book all the high-maintenance clients in with the locum. And unless the locum has indicated otherwise, try not to give them all the complex unwell or surgical cases either, unless you have scheduled them longer appointment times to do so and they have indicated that they’re up for the challenge (and will charge appropriately!).
Unfairly scheduling a locum generally leads to a “One-time only” locum visit and can also result in lots of disgruntled clients as the locum runs further and further behind schedule, rushes and potentially makes mistakes. This will ultimately hurt you and your clinic’s locum relief reputation in the long run. No Bueno.
Welcoming, professional environment
If you want your clinic to attract great veterinary talent, whether locum relief or permanent staff, first ensure that you are providing an attract-ive workplace (see what we did there?). But what is an attractive workplace?
An attractive veterinary workplace doesn’t need state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities with all the latest gadgets. Instead, it just needs to be a clean, tidy and pleasant environment offering the equipment necessary for up-to-date, quality patient care, such as:
- A digital tonometer
…to facilitate thorough examination techniques…
- A microscope
- Digital imaging facilities – radiology and ideally ultrasonography and dental radiology
- Laboratory equipment for core biochemistry, haematology and urinalysis
- Comfortable and secure cages for patients
- Fluid pumps
- A pulse oximeter
- Blood pressure monitoring equipment
- Preferably other anaesthetic monitoring and support equipment such as a capnograph and warming air blankets
- An array of anaesthesia and analgesia drug options including pure opioids
…to allow for quality surgical and hospital care.
Just as importantly, your Treatment Protocols should be modern and evidence-based, and you should have adequate numbers of trained, experienced support staff on-site to facilitate good patient care.
Put these guidelines into practice, and you will soon be unearthing the highest grade of locum relief professional for your clinic. Accessible, reliable, and experienced Locum Relief coverage?
Locum Relief Veterinary Professionals that are keen to return time after time?
How to find attract and keep locum relief veterinarians: A guide for practice owners – 4 March 2022 – https://www.vetpetjobs.com.au/blog/au-how-to-find-attract-keep-locum-relief-veterinarians/– Accessed 11 August 2022
Kick ass tips for veterinary relief locums – 23 September 2019 – https://www.kickassvets.com/blogs/blogTipsForLocums.php – Accessed 11 August 2022
How to keep your locum vets coming back for more – 20 September 2021 – https://theveterinarian.com.au/?p=2864 – Accessed 11 August 2022
Oh, what a relief it is – 8 February 2019 – https://todaysveterinarybusiness.com/oh-what-a-relief-it-is/ – Accessed 11 August 2022
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